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|The FA Cup final used to often produce cagey affairs, but there is no overwhelming favorite this time around and that makes both teams to score look like an attractive proposition.|
|Chelsea vs Leicester City Information|
|Teams||Chelsea vs Leicester City|
|Location||Wembley, London, England|
|Time||Saturday, 15 May 2021, 12.15 PM EDT|
|How to watch||ESPN|
Thomas Tuchel suffered a rare setback on Wednesday, as his Chelsea side suffered a 1-0 defeat by Arsenal in the Premier League. That was only the third loss Tuchel has experienced since taking charge of the club in January. Back then, a top-four finish looked a long way off, but Chelsea still have their fate in their own hands despite their slip-up last time out. Win their last two games and the Blues will finish third and thus qualify for next season’s edition of the Champions League.
Nevertheless, Wednesday’s defeat by Arsenal was not ideal preparation for this FA Cup final. It does leave Chelsea’s top-four status in the balance, particularly as neither of their two remaining fixtures are straightforward: a home game against Leicester, followed by a trip to Aston Villa. Arsenal’s goal at Stamford Bridge may have come courtesy of an individual error by Jorginho, but Chelsea were left frustrated after failing to break down a resolute Arsenal rearguard in the remaining 74 minutes.
Chelsea’s only other consequential defeat under Tuchel – the third, a 1-0 loss to Porto, was not enough to overturn the Blues’ aggregate advantage – was followed by a perfect response. After being humbled 5-2 by West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea thrashed Crystal Palace 4-1 in their next encounter, then overcame Manchester City in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Tuchel will be looking for a similar reaction from his players at Wembley.
Despite the fact he only arrived a few months ago, the German is potentially a couple of weeks away from becoming one of the most successful managers Chelsea have ever had. The west Londoners are fighting for the FA Cup, a top-four finish and the Champions League. Succeed on all three fronts and Tuchel will earn himself a place in the history books.
Leicester have reached the FA Cup final four times before. In 1949, 1961, 1963 and 1969, they left empty-handed. That record, of course, will not adversely affect the current team, even if superstitious supporters might be a little worried. But Leicester have shown this season and last that they can hold their own against the big boys of English soccer, and Brendan Rodgers will harbor no inferiority complex heading into Saturday’s showpiece.
Unlike their opponents, Leicester warmed up for the FA Cup final with a win in their last Premier League outing. It was an important one too, as Rodgers’ side edged out an under-strength Manchester United team 2-1 to retake third place. The Foxes were clearly aided by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s heavy rotation, but they still got the job done at Old Trafford.
However, like Chelsea, a spot in next season’s Champions League is still not assured. A trip to Stamford Bridge awaits before Tottenham Hotspur visits the King Power Stadium on the final weekend.
Rodgers won multiple trophies during his time at Celtic, and he will know the benefits that silverware can bring to a team – particularly one that is hoping to become a permanent part of English soccer’s elite. Beating Chelsea in a cup final would be a further sign of progress to that end, even if Champions League soccer is Leicester’s overriding priority for the season. If things go well in the next 10 days, they could have both.
There was a time when the FA Cup final tended to be cagey and low-scoring. In the seven editions between 2007 and 2013, five ended 1-0. Since then, though, FA Cup finalists have not been so cautious. Only one of the last seven finals ended 1-0, while a majority featured goals at both ends of the pitch.
It does not always hold true, but a final containing two relatively evenly-matched sides is more likely to see both teams find the back of the net. Chelsea have been stronger than Leicester in the second half of the season, but the fact that just two points separate them in the Premier League standings indicates there is little to choose between them.
As such, neither team will go out on Saturday with the intention of merely spoiling the occasion for the other. Both sides will commit bodies to attack, and while a solid defense could help Chelsea or Leicester get over the line, it will not come at the expense of ambition going forward.
Leicester have performed reasonably well against the Premier League’s biggest teams this term. They scored twice in their only meeting with Chelsea, four times in two games against Manchester United, and on five occasions against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Scoring goals has not generally been a problem for the Foxes in such games, and that will give them confidence ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Chelsea.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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